Provost Rogan Kersh Archive

José Villalba appointed interim chief diversity officer

José Villalba

Wake Forest Provost Rogan Kersh announced Aug. 11 that he has appointed Professor José Villalba as interim chief diversity officer.

The appointment of Villalba follows Chief Diversity Officer Barbee Myers Oakes’ departure to take the same role at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas.

In a message emailed to students, faculty and staff, Kersh wrote that he was “pleased to announce” Villalba’s appointment.

“Dr. Villalba arrived at Wake Forest in 2011 as Associate Professor of Counseling; he has spent the past four years in the Office of the Dean of the College, most recently holding the title of Senior Associate Dean for Faculty, Evaluation, and Inclusivity,” Kersh wrote. “In this role, Dr. Villalba participated in student-facing initiatives, worked with faculty and staff development efforts related to diversity and inclusion, was instrumental in faculty recruitment for the undergraduate College, and proved a key partner for offices and departments across the university. Dr. Villalba will remain in the Dean of the College’s office in an advisory role.”

As interim chief diversity officer, Kersh wrote, “Dr. Villalba will continue to build on our strong foundation for enhancing inclusion and diversity at Wake Forest. His teaching and research expertise is highly relevant for this vital interim role, ranging across health disparities in Latina/o youth, multicultural counseling, and minority populations’ access to and completion of higher education.”

Kersh added that Villalba has expressed “great enthusiasm for joining the talented team in our Office of Diversity and Inclusion as they continue to engage with an increasingly diverse and inclusive Wake Forest community. He is also deeply committed to extend and strengthen partnerships with offices and individuals across the University in the service of seamless support systems for all members of our campus, especially those from historically marginalized groups.”

Villalba praised the achievements of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion team.

“The Leadership Team in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion has provided exemplary and necessary support, guidance, and understanding to the greater Wake Forest Community.  I look forward to serving with this talented and skilled group of colleagues as we strive to value and appreciate the contributions of our community of students and families, faculty, staff, administrators, and alums,” Villalba said.

He came to Wake Forest from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he was an associate professor.  His background also includes a faculty position at Indiana State University.

At the University of Florida, he received a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology, Master of Education and Education Specialist degrees in school guidance and counseling, and a doctorate in counselor education.

Barbee Oakes named chief diversity officer at UNLV

This announcement was emailed by Provost Rogan Kersh to students, faculty and staff on July 6:

Dear Wake Forest Students, Faculty, and Staff,

Barbee Oakes

After three decades as a champion of diversity and inclusion at Wake Forest, Dr. Barbee Oakes will become the Chief Diversity Officer at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) on September 1.

Appointed Wake Forest’s first Chief Diversity Officer in 2015, Dr. Oakes has also served as Assistant Provost for Diversity and Inclusion since 2009.

We are grateful for Dr. Oakes’ years of pioneering leadership and the vital, central role she has had in making Wake Forest a more diverse and inclusive place.  She has been unwavering in her commitment to creating an inclusive environment for every member of the Wake Forest community.  Though sad she will leave her alma mater and professional home for 28 years, we know UNLV will benefit from her extraordinary combination of wisdom and passion for fostering community.

Dr. Oakes was Director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs (now the Intercultural Center) for 14 years prior to her appointment as Assistant Provost. She came to Wake Forest as an assistant professor in the health and exercise science department in 1989.

Under her leadership, Wake Forest implemented key retention strategies that positioned the University among the nation’s most successful institutions with respect to graduating college students of color. She has worked collaboratively with faculty, administrators, staff and students to develop initiatives to broaden the curriculum, increase the number of minority faculty and staff, enhance diversity education, better prepare our students to work and lead in a global society and, in countless ways, create an inclusive and engaging campus culture.

Dr. Oakes was also the lead author of Wake Forest’s strategic plan to enhance diversity and inclusion, among the first and most expansive such university strategies when published nearly a decade ago. Many of the initiatives proposed there, including creating a LGBTQ Center and Women’s Center, have come to rich fruition under her supervision.

Beyond Wake Forest, she has also been a leader in higher education. In 2012, Diverse Issues in Higher Education nationally recognized her as one of the “25 Women Making a Difference” to foster community on college campuses. She has served as president of the North Carolina Diversity and Inclusion Partners.

An exercise physiologist by training, Dr. Oakes (’80, MA ’81) received a B.S. with honors and an M.A from Wake Forest. As a Hylton Smith Fellow, she received a Ph.D. in exercise physiology and nutrition from the University of Tennessee and was the first African American woman with a doctorate in the American College of Sports Medicine. She has also held faculty appointments at Arizona State and Penn State University.

I will oversee a national search for her replacement.

I know I speak for us all wishing Dr. Oakes the best of luck at UNLV—she will be missed across the Wake Forest community, one she has done so much to enhance!


Rogan Kersh

Christina Soriano appointed inaugural Administrative Fellow

This is a guest post from the Office of the Provost:

Christina Soriano

Christina Soriano, director of dance and associate professor of dance, has been appointed as the inaugural Administrative Fellow in the Office of the Provost.

As Administrative Fellow, Soriano will work with colleagues across the university to enhance visibility of the arts at and beyond Wake Forest, and help forge interdisciplinary connections across the arts and other Wake Forest schools and departments.  “Professor Soriano is an ideal choice as our first Administrative Fellow,” said Provost Rogan Kersh, “given her laudable work with faculty and staff across Wake Forest, as well as her extensive following among students.  She has also originated pathbreaking programs integrating dance and health in the Winston-Salem community, epitomizing our expanding engagement with our surrounding communities.”

“I am looking forward to working with the Provost’s team to help boost the profile of the arts at Wake Forest,” Soriano notes, “as well as on projects to enhance intellectual culture at the university more generally.  I am also eager to serve as a liaison for faculty colleagues with the Provost’s Office.”

Soriano’s interdisciplinary work includes collaborations with faculty across arts departments, biochemistry, and the School of Medicine. She is co-organizing a third university-wide conference on “Aging Re-Imagined,” and last month was awarded a substantial NIH grant for research carried out jointly with Dr. Christina Hugenschmidt of the Wake Forest School of Medicine.

Additional Administrative Fellows, drawn from across Wake Forest’s faculty, are expected to be appointed in future years, both in the Provost’s Office and those of other administrative leaders.  Much as our decade-old Wake Forest Fellows program brings the perspective and dedication of outstanding recent graduates to university administration, the Administrative Fellows program will engage faculty members for a year in leadership councils, new and existing academic initiatives, and other core aspects of advancing our mission and priorities.

Kami Chavis appointed associate provost for academic initiatives

Kami Chavis

Wake Forest Provost Rogan Kersh announced May 3 that he has appointed Professor Kami Chavis as associate provost for academic initiatives. She will begin serving as associate provost on July 1.

In 2006, Chavis joined the Wake Forest School of Law, where she is associate dean of research and public engagement, professor of law and director of the Criminal Justice Program.

Chavis assumes her new leadership role in the Office of the Provost as Vice Provost Lynn Sutton is retiring.

In a message emailed to faculty and staff May 3, Kersh honored Sutton for her service and announced Chavis’ appointment.

“As many of you know, Vice Provost Lynn Sutton will be retiring to Beaufort, NC, this June after her thirteen years of transformational leadership at Wake Forest,” Kersh wrote.

“Arriving here in 2004 as Dean of the Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Dr. Sutton led the ZSR to be one of the most welcoming and intellectually curious places on campus, with a particular focus on outreach to students and faculty.”

“I have been immeasurably grateful to work with Dr. Sutton for five years—including the past three as Vice Provost, where she has enlivened our office with her singular blend of creativity and conscience,” Kersh wrote. “Lynn’s collaborative spirit, uncommon dedication, and unerring good judgement have left an indelible mark on our campus.”

In that same message, Kersh wrote that he was “delighted to announce” Chavis’ appointment as associate provost for academic initiatives.

He noted that Chavis, as founder and director of the Criminal Justice Program, has “led the law school to national prominence in researching and analyzing police and prosecutorial accountability and the U.S. criminal justice system.”

As the law school’s associate dean of research and public engagement, Kersh wrote, Chavis “has helped to elevate the visibility and impact of her law faculty colleagues’ scholarship and public programs.”

A well-known faculty member and administrator, Chavis has been active with community members across the University.  In the past two academic years, for instance, she led the University’s Police Accountability Task Force.

“Through my service on university-wide committees, I have had the opportunity to meet many members of the university community, including students, faculty and staff,” she added. “I believe that I have a good sense of who we are here at Wake Forest, the values we hold dear, and the respect we have for higher learning.”

Chavis said she looks forward “to meeting more members of our university community and working collaboratively with various campus constituencies to support and implement various academic initiatives of the campus.”

She has gained recognition on campus for demonstrating her commitment to the University’s values and mission in numerous ways.

“I take our university’s motto, Pro Humanitate, to heart, and I think that my career as a lawyer and my work on various contemporary policy issues reflects this,” Chavis said.

Nationally, she has gained considerable recognition in the news media for her expertise on criminal justice issues, including police and prosecutorial accountability, community policing and law enforcement and technology.  She is frequently interviewed for stories in television, radio, print and online news outlets.

Chavis joined Wake Forest after serving as an assistant United States attorney in Washington, D.C. Previously, she had been an associate attorney at two Washington law firms.

During her Wake Forest tenure, she has been a visiting professor of law at George Washington University’s School of Law and the University of Maryland’s Francis King Carey School of Law in Baltimore.

She received a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a law degree at Harvard.

Faculty and staff happy hour April 27 at Reynolda Hall

This message was emailed to faculty and staff April 27 by the Office of the Provost:

Please join Provost Kersh and your university colleagues for a faculty and staff happy hour in the Reynolda Hall Green Room today, Thursday, April 27, from 4-5:30 p.m.

We look forward to seeing you there as we thank you for all of your work this year at Wake Forest.